Many common pets like cats and dogs learn to recognize their owners. They respond differently to the person they associate with the provision of food, water and shelter to other unknown people.
An obvious question asked by those new to tarantula keeping is therefore “can tarantulas recognize their owners?”
Tarantulas are very simple animals and don’t have the intelligence to recognize their owners.
Tarantulas typically won’t act any differently irrespective of the person looking at them, and they don’t crave attention from their owner.
The short answer is therefore – no – tarantulas don’t recognize their owners.
Dispelling Some Myths
A handful of owners over the years have claimed that their tarantula learned to recognize them and would come out to see them.
As someone that has been keeping tarantulas as pets for over 25 years I can assure you this is totally inaccurate. However there are some factors that I suppose could lead some people to believe this is true. Here are some elements to consider…
Tarantulas are pretty scary animals for many people. When faced with a giant spider they sweat, they shake nervously and they make sudden, unpredictable movements. It is therefore unsurprising that new owners can be at risk of spooking their tarantula.
More experienced tarantula keepers soon get familiar with their spiders. Remember: tarantulas are pretty simple organisms so their actions are generally quite easy to predict.
With this knowledge in hand, moving slowly and calmly while carrying out tank maintenance, tarantulas can respond rather differently. They plod around in a far more natural manner, rather than making a break for freedom.
Maybe, just maybe, some keepers have simply calmed down while maintaining their tarantulas, and have attributed this change in behavior to being “recognized” by their pet.
Time of Day
Tarantulas are nocturnal – they’re awake during the night. In addition to this tarantulas may change their daily routine based on a range of factors.
Gravid females, for example, may pace their cage looking for the best place to lay their eggs. A tarantula coming up to moult may remain hidden in their hide for weeks or even months. Warmer weather generally makes tarantulas more active.
All this means that if you pay enough attention you’ll notice these subtle changes in behaviour, which I suppose some people could misidentify as being “recognised”.
For example if you brought a tarantula home that hid away for weeks in order to moult, then you suddenly noticed that every time you walked into the room it was out and about some people might assume the tarantula wanted “attention” and had recognised them.
Of course, it’s rather more likely it’s hungry and is simply on the hunt for a post-moult meal.
A hungry tarantula may be more likely to pace around its cage on the hunt for insect prey. As a result, you may see a hungry tarantula out and about far more than a well-fed specimen. Just because you forgot to feed your spider last week and now keep seeing it out exploring please see it for what it is: hunger rather than a desire to interact with it’s owner.
Tarantulas, like me, appreciate peace and quiet. Loud or sudden noises can disturb them, making them come out of their hide with a view to escaping the noise. So if your tarantula is near to a TV, for example, you may see it more when the TV is turned on. If you have noisy children running around then you may see something similar.
To be clear: you shouldn’t deliberately create noise to “scare” your spider out of it’s hide. Indeed, for this exact reason I advise keeping your tarantula in a quiet, calm area of your home. Personally mine are all held in my “office” at the back of the house which is well away from common sources of noise like the washing machine and TV.
To dispel this common myth: tarantulas do not recognize their owners. Their poor eyesight combined with limited intelligence means this simply does not happen.
If you notice any behavioral changes in your tarantula when you’re around then these can almost certainly be explained in a more logical manner.